Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Figuratively Speaking

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think that figurative expressions are as popular in our cultural as they once were. There are quite a few that are still to this day spoken in our day to day life (the likes of ‘burry the hatchet’, ‘my cup of tea’, and ‘cool as cucumber’!). But many, I feel, are being forgotten, gathering dust at the back of our ancient language.

Recently, I came across an old book. I found it on the shelf of the neglected bookcase in the hall. It had the title ‘The Key to English: Figurative Expressions’, which apparently was part of a series of books on the English language published by the Macmillan Company. The first edition was printed in 1966.

Reading through the expressions featured in the 90-page-book I was quite fascinated. Many of those either I couldn’t understand or have never heard or read before. But then I remembered and realized that most of these would’ve made a whole lot more sense 40 years ago. I would doubt that many people out there actually use the expression “take coals to Newcastle” anymore!

At the same time, being a non-native English speaker, I never really had, or felt the urge, to use any figurative expressions. Of course that changed when I began writing and eventually realized that such expressions are an essential part of the language, even if not used as often as it was. Having said that, my girlfriend sometimes throws random figurative expressions at me and I find myself feeling silly at asking what she actually meant by them.

I wonder though, if today, one would, in describing a blunder he has made, dare claiming to have… “Pulled a boner!”

I know I wouldn’t.


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